A year packed with high-caliber performances : Audiences are looking forward to big names and return of favorites

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A year packed with high-caliber performances : Audiences are looking forward to big names and return of favorites


Russia’s prestigious Mariinsky Ballet company is visiting Seoul to present “Swan Lake” in November at the Seoul Arts Center. [YONHAP]

The country’s performing arts community has been in the doldrums for some time now, but the show must go on. Despite concerns that the recently enacted antigraft bill, known as the Kim Young-ran Law, will exacerbate the country’s classical music and performing arts circles, there are many performances lined up throughout the year that will make theatergoers flutter with anticipation. However, production companies say in unison that this year is really the last year that Korean audiences will be able to see such abundant lineups as they have difficulties securing sponsorships from local companies thanks to the law. In case there is nothing more to see next year, theatergoers should go ahead and secure tickets for performances in 2017.

Here is a preview of some notable performances that are soon to come.


From left: Maestro Kirill Petrenko is bringing the Bavarian State Orchestra in September; a Korean production of the hit musical “Billy Elliot” will be staged for the first time in seven years in the D-Cube Art Center near Sindorim station, southwestern Seoul; and a Korean play “Sister Mokran” will be staged at the Doosan Art Center in Jongno District, central Seoul from March. [VINCERO, SEENSEE, DOOSAN ART CENTER]

Classical’s biggest names

The classical music concerts that will be most anticipated by aficionados will be from the Bayerisches Staatsorchester, or the Bavarian State Orchestra, under the baton of Kirill Petrenko in September as well as by the Berlin Philharmonic with maestro Simon Rattle in November. Pentrenko, who is visiting Seoul for the first time, will succeed Rattle as the chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic in 2019. In turn, it makes Rattle’s upcoming concert a farewell to Korean classical music fans as the maestro behind the renowned Berlin Philharmonic. Rattle has been with the Berlin Philharmonic for 14 years, receiving high praise for infusing youthful and innovative energy into the orchestra. For the concert, Chinese pianist Lang Lang is said to be accompanying the orchestra.

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, that has been voted as “the best symphony orchestra in the world” by Gramophone magazine, is also coming to Seoul’s Lotte Concert Hall in November. The concert is part of an Asian tour with Italian maestro Daniele Gatti, who took the position as the chief conductor last September, following Mariss Jansons. It will be an opportunity for Korean audiences to see his musicality and leadership of the orchestra. In May, L’Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France will be visiting Korea for the first time in four years. It will be maestro Mikko Franck’s first visit to Korea. Korean pianist Son Yeol-eum will be accompanying them on stage, playing powerful piano concertos of Gershwin and romantic melodies of Ravel.


Favorite musicals return

There’s no jaw-dropping musical productions premiering in Korea this year, but large-scale musicals that have been proven to be box-office hits will be staged throughout the year.

In March, dramatic musical “Jekyll & Hyde,” which is performed in English by a Korean production team, is coming to Seoul, ending its premiere run in Daegu. Then, the Broadway production of one of its longest running musicals “Chicago” is visiting Seoul again this year from May to July, as an encore to its sold-out shows last year.

Above all, what excites musical aficionados the most this year is the upcoming Korean production of “Billy Elliot” which is coming onto the stage for the first time in seven years. According to Seensee Company, auditions are currently being held to find Billy, a young boy who trades boxing gloves for ballet shoes. The production company has opened up auditions for all boys across the country whose height does not exceed 150 centimeters and those whose voices have yet to change. The show will be staged at the D-Cube Art Center in Sindorim, western Seoul from November to April next year.

“The Bridges of Madison County” is a licensed musical that will be premiering in Seoul this April at the Chungmu Art Center. The musical, which is based on Robert James Waller’s 1992 novel of the same name, premiered on Broadway in 2014. The story revolves around two characters - Francesca, an Italian war bride living in a small town in Iowa and a photographer named Robert who visits the town. The storyline itself is sure to attract Korean audiences, according to the Korean producer Shownote, as the original novel managed to secure No. 1 on the New York Times’ best seller list for 37 weeks, translated into 12 different languages and more than 50 million copies were sold. After the Broadway debut, it won the Tony Award the same year for Best Original Score and Best Orchestration.

The Seoul Metropolitan Musical Theater is also staging historical musical “The Secret Envoy” in May. The story centers around three secret envoys deployed to The Hague in 1907. Due to this deployment, King Gojong was dethroned and the Korean Empire disappeared. Starting in July, another Korean musical “Cyrano,” which is a debut musical produced by actor Ryu Jung-han, will be staged at the Charlotte Theater.

The best of ballet

Ballet fans should keep their calendars clear in November. World renowned Mariinsky Ballet from Russia and Compania Nacional de Danza from Spain will stage performances, both from Nov. 9 to 12 at the Seoul Arts Center and LG Arts Center, respectively.

Mariinsky Ballet’s “Swan Lake” is drawing attention as reports said Korean dancer Kim Ki-min, who won the 2016 Benois de la Danse, may take the leading role. Kim has been with the Mariinsky since 2011 and became a principal dancer in 2015. It’s the ballet company’s first visit in five years. Seoul Concert Management, which is bringing the company to Korea, said to local media that it has “signed a contract on the condition that Kim would appear on stage.”

Meanwhile, the Spanish National Dance Company, or Compania Nacional de Danza, known as one of the best ballet companies in the world, will be presenting “Carmen,” choreographed by Johan Inger. a Swedish choreographer. Inger won the Best Choreographer award in the 2016 Benois de la Danse for his interpretation of “Carmen.”

Korean dance companies are also staging some major works this year. Universal Ballet is kicking off this season with “Don Quixote” in April and ending with “Onegin” in November. The National Dance Company will be staging “The Banquet” from Feb. 7. The performance was highly praised during its premiere last year for beautifully showing 12 different kinds of Korean traditional dance, ranging from court dance to religious dance. Then in April, the company is coming back with “Shigane Nai,” which was created last year to celebrate the 130th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Korea and France. The dance performance combines both Korean and French culture - the Korean traditional dance and contemporary dance of France. It is co-produced by the National Theater of Korea and Theatre National de Chaillot of France.

Grand stories on stage

Korea’s famous playwright Ko Sun-woong’s “The Orphan of Zhao,” which was selected as the best play in 2015, is coming back this month to the stage of Myeongdong Art Theater in central Seoul. This tragic Chinese traditional story is as familiar to Chinese audiences as “The Tale of Chunhyang” is familiar to Koreans. After the story was introduced to Europe during the 8th century, it was hailed as the “Hamlet of Asia.”

Doosan Art Center will be staging two plays; “Sister Mokran” in March, followed by “Death and the Maiden” in May, which were selected by audiences as two plays they want to see again this year. LG Arts Center is bringing renowned Belgian director Ivo van Hove’s grand production of “The Fountainhead” next month, which is based on Ayn Rand’s novel of the same name. The Sejong Center for the Performing Arts is presenting Henrik Ibsen’s play “The Pretenders,” which will be performed by the Seoul Metropolitan Theater from Mar. 31. The story revolves around the historical conflict between Hakon, Skule and Nikolas - the three characters who represent monarchy, noblemen and church.

BY YIM SEUNG-HYE [sharon@joongang.co.kr]
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